Denny Hamlin will start third as highest Toyota driver in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.
Toyota Racing Post-Qualifying Report
NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)
Phoenix Raceway – March 7, 2020
TOYOTA STARTING POSITIONS
1st, Chase Elliott*
2nd, Kevin Harvick*
3rd, DENNY HAMLIN
4th, Kyle Larson*
5th, Ryan Blaney*
10th, KYLE BUSCH
11th, ERIK JONES
12th, MARTIN TRUEX JR
15th, CHRISTOPHER BELL
29th, DANIEL SUÁREZ
38th, TIMMY HILL
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 3rd
How was your qualifying lap?
“It was good. Obviously, we were one of the best guys and we were definitely the fastest of the guys that ran the bottom. I didn’t run up in the traction stuff like those guys that beat us did. I thought that running the bottom was the best play for myself and we just came up barely a little short. I’m looking forward to Sunday. I think we have a really good car. It felt really good there in qualifying.”
Does this give you a good baseline for the championship run in November?
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s always good knowing that this is going to be the championship weekend to have a car that’s good right off the bat allows us to have a baseline setup that we can always go back on if we ever get lost on championship week.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Sport Clips Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 10th
What do you hope you’re able to accomplish with this racing package?
“There’s nothing I’m going to do to enhance the racing besides drive my car and give it the best I can do and have a good run with it. Hopefully we’ll be able to win. We’ll do the best thing for us, setting ourselves up for when we come back here in the fall and hopefully have a chance to race for a championship. You have to get here first. This race means everything for everyone in the garage because this time everyone right now has a shot. In our reality, there’s only going to be four guys that come back here that have a shot. Hopefully we’re one of those four.”
How will passing be in Sunday’s race?
“When you’re faster than a guy in front of you and you run him down from a ways back and then you get stuck, that’s what makes it hard to pass. But, when you’re running the same relative speed as the next guy around you, and it’s hard to pass because you’re not any faster than that guy, you’re not going to pass him. We all have to take these different things into consideration to what we’re spouting off about and be smarter about it.”
How dramatic is the tire fall off?
“If you have 10, 12 laps on your tires and somebody comes in and pits, I think depending on how that guy restarts, he’s going to be able to pass guys. I had five lap fresher tires than a couple of guys yesterday in practice and I was able to catch them and pass them. Positive so far.”
ERIK JONES, No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 11th
Is Phoenix a special place for you?
“Yeah, it has been. You never forget your first win anywhere. My first NASCAR win was here and albeit seven years ago, it doesn’t feel like that long, I’m sure for you guys, too. It’s always cool, I like coming back here with what they’ve done with the track and the improvements in the garage are nice. I get excited everytime because Phoenix is a fun place to race and that special feeling you get everytime never really leaves me.”
Does this race mean more with the Championship here?
“It’s cool, it puts a little more focus on this race for us as far as being here and working on it for the fall. Going to Homestead, we never had the opportunity to race there before. Changes your mentality coming in here a little bit with focus more on it, for sure. Try to put in the effort to be good here when we come back.”
What do you think we’ll see here in the race?
“A lot of slipping and sliding. It’s going to be cooler tomorrow, but there’s a lot of downforce off the cars. Yesterday was fun. It was cool to get out there and it’s been a while since we’ve had a lot of downforce. Feels like you can drive a lot more and do more that will make a difference. It feels good – you want to have that in the race car. It will be tough, it’s not going to be easy and going to hear a lot of complaining I’m sure.”
How did you get together to do the Truck race?
“I wasn’t searching for an opportunity, but they came to me after Las Vegas and asked if I’d be interested in running the Truck race there. Of course, I want to run, so I told them yeah. I went by (Billy Ballew and James Finch’s) shop and he’s got great equipment. New stuff that I think is going to be really competitive. I haven’t been in a Truck for a while, but I really enjoy Truck racing and Homestead is a good track for me. It’s going to be fun with me, (Kyle) Larson and Kyle (Busch) all in it.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 12th
How do you feel about having to start at the rear again due to the engine change?
“It’s not what we hoped for obviously. It’s one of those things that you can’t change. Just try to do the best we can with it. We’ve had a rough couple races, but the team has been doing a great job and our cars have been fast. Those are the positives. Hopefully we come out of here with a strong day tomorrow. I wasn’t real happy with our car yesterday, but we made a lot of changes overnight and it felt much better there. We’ll see what happens.”
How do you feel about your ability to pass tomorrow?
“It’s really hard to say so far. We were pretty far off from where we needed to be yesterday. New tire threw us for a loop and we were kind of trying some different things as well. Kind of went back towards what we used to race here. The car felt really, really good there in qualifying. It surprised me just how much grip it had. I wish I would have known it was going to feel that good, I would have made a few adjustments and maybe went a little faster. Hopefully that’s a good sign for tomorrow. We’ve been able to come from the back here before. It seemed like yesterday a lot of guys were struggling with this new tire and we were one of them. I think we’re going to have a few guys that hit it and a bunch of guys that are off. If we can hit it pretty good I think we can have a good day.”
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 95 Procore Toyota Camry, Leavine Family Racing
Starting Position: 15th
How did your qualifying lap feel?
“It felt good. I felt comfortable. Feel like I know what I’m aiming for a lot more with this rules package, especially here. That’s really comforting. Yesterday when we unloaded, I’m like, ‘Yeah, this is exactly what I’ve done the last couple times I’ve been here.’ That was pretty rewarding. Yesterday in practice we were all over the map as far as balance. I think if we can get the balance, we’ll be competitive tomorrow.”
Do you feel like you’ve had a few growing pains in the Cup Series?
“A few is being nice to us. We’ve been on the struggle bus the last couple weeks. This is a lot more normal and it’s nice to be able to work on the car. You come in, you work on the car, you make it better and you go faster on the race track. Last couple weeks, I feel like we get the car driving good and we’re still slow. That’s been annoying, but seems to be a lot closer this week.”
DANIEL SUÁREZ, No. 96 CommScope Toyota Camry, Gaunt Brothers Racing
Starting Position: 31st
How was your Camry in qualifying?
“The CommScope Toyota is actually quite good in racing trim. We never made a qualifying run yesterday, so we gave it our best shot today, just thinking about the big picture, which is the race on Sunday. My first lap was better than my second lap, but overall, I think we have something good to work with on Sunday. We will just do what we do and hope for the best, show a little bit of improvement each week.”
Toyota Racing PR